16:17 Tuesday 10 December 2013

Review: Horrible Histories, Derby Theatre

Written byNIGEL POWLSON

HAVING already scored a big hit with a selection of Terry Deary’s Horrible Histories, Derby Theatre has returned to the franchise for its festive family show.

Horrible Histories: Horrible Christmas is a whistlestop trip through time, giving us the history of the Yuletide festivities from the nativity right up to the present day.

There’s the usual mix of historical trivia, silly songs and boisterous good humour but, this time, given a dollop of Christmas goodwill in keeping with the needs of family audiences at this time of the year.

Birmingham Stage Company, the custodians of Deary’s creations on stage, have joined forces wth Derby Theatre for this visually delightful show.

We also have a willing and energetic cast who all throw themselves into the fast-paced proceedings with plenty of gusto.

The story begins on Christmas Eve with Watson (Mark Newnham) sneaking downstairs to open his Christmas presents before the night is over. Instead, he discovers the evil Sidney Claus (Andrew Vincent) and his hench-reindeer Rudolph (Simon Snashall) plotting to wipe Christmas off the calendar by zipping back through time to key moments in the development of the festivties.

Watson, with the help of Holmes (Sarah Pelosi) sets off in hot pursuit, meeting Charles Dickens, Oliver Cromwell and the original Saint Nick as they strive to save Christmas.

With tricycle time machines zipping across the stage, the production never stands still and every step in time has something to offer - with Christopher Chilton cropping up in each period to give us endearingly eccentric recreations of such characters as Charles II and Henry VIII.

Fans of the series might suggest that this isn’t as ‘Horrible’ as we might expect - the grisly details of historical times are perhaps kept in check by the needs of a Christmas show - and the story that links the period sketches is a lttle tedious, if you are aged over eight.

But there are some inspired bits of comedy - you will love the deadly dull puritans and their miserable song - and lots of audience participation a la panto.

Guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

Horrible Histories: Horrible Christmas can be seen until January 11. Go to www.derbytheatre.co.uk

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